David Cloninger

October 28, 2013

SEC Hoops Lookahead: Auburn

South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches.

David Cloninger

All things Gamecocks, especially basketball and football

South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches.

Other previews
Oct. 26: Alabama
Oct. 27: Arkansas


2012-13 record (SEC finish): 9-23, 3-15 (14th)
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Tony Barbee (35-59, fourth year; 117-111, eighth year)
Top returners: G Chris Denson (11.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg); F Allen Payne (7.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg); C Asauhn Dixon-Tatum (3.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Biggest losses: Frankie Sullivan (14.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg); Rob Chubb (8.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg); Shaquille Johnson (5.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg)

I’m the one that asked, because a), I wanted to hear the answer and b), I was stunned that he was still sitting there.

“How do you feel that some have said you’re on the hot seat?”

Tony Barbee looked at me like he wanted to carve off a piece of my anatomy, but answered like all coaches on the hot seat do. He’s not paying any attention to it.

“It doesn’t mean a thing to me,” he said at SEC Media Days. “I’ve always been a guy that’s based my performance on (preparing my team), so I could care less what anybody else thinks.”

What I think, and what I believe many others will as the year progresses, is that Auburn is heading for another disaster of a season. The Tigers lost the best player off a 9-23 team that dropped 16 of its final 17 games last season. There are six freshmen added to the roster, and Auburn got a good turnout for its Midnight Madness a few weeks ago (featuring Mike Epps and Ludacris).

But man, it doesn’t look good for Barbee to be back for Year 5.

Auburn hasn’t had a winning season under him, coming close in 2012 with a 15-16 mark, and hasn’t won more than five SEC games in a season (in a horrid bit of truth to South Carolina, three of the Tigers’ 12 SEC wins over the past three years have been over the Gamecocks). A protégé of John Calipari, Barbee is seeing the exact opposite of the rule requiring players to spend at least a year in college before going to the NBA – Kentucky gets ’em in, wins a lot of games and sends ’em on, Auburn gets ’em in and they leave without winning for parts unknown.

In July, the number of Barbee-recruited players that had already left the team stood at 12. Very hard to build a team when a coach doesn’t know who he’ll have from year to year.

The non-conference schedule, at least, is conducive. Auburn plays at Iowa State and against Illinois in Atlanta, with home games against Clemson and Boston College. The problem is the crucible of SEC play. Auburn’s first four games are at Ole Miss, hosting Missouri, at Tennessee and hosting Florida. Don’t hang those new pictures in the office, coach.

2012-13 record (SEC finish): 19-15, 5-11 (T-11th) *WNIT fourth round
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Terri Williams-Flournoy (19-15, second year; 143-104, ninth year)
Top returners: G/F Tyrese Tanner (14.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Hasina Muhammad (14.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg); F/C Tra’Cee Tanner (6.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Biggest losses: Blanche Alverson (12.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg); Najat Ouardad (4.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Chadarryl Clay (3.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg)

Auburn had steadily slipped since winning the SEC in 2009, and not much was expected when longtime Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy joined the program before last season. The thinking was that she would need a couple of years to really get her feet under her.

Instead, Williams-Flournoy overcame an eight-game SEC losing streak to win three of her final five games in the league, then advanced to the WNIT quarterfinals. With Tyrese Tanner and Hasina Muhammad, each of whom finished in the top eight of the league in scoring, returning, Williams-Flournoy is poised to see a substantial improvement in her team’s 5-11 SEC mark of a year ago.

The Tigers signed six freshmen, four of them rated three-star prospects. A top-four finish in the league this year is probably unreachable, but it’s not unreasonable to think that Auburn will soon be bidding for it.

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

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